Dress for Success
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Locations | How to Start a Dress for Success

Dress for Success is committed to expanding our network of affiliates so that we can reach more women around the world to offer them professional attire and career development services that will enable them to thrive in the mainstream workplace. We may be best known for giving out suits, but Dress for Success affiliates do much more than simply hand out clothing. They change women's lives.

If you share our passion for improving the lives of women, we encourage you to keep reading to learn what it takes to bring Dress for Success to your community. 

An exciting and rewarding experience...
Through Dress for Success you can provide assistance to women in need and have a significant and long-lasting impact on their lives, their families and your community. By launching a Dress for Success affiliate you will become a valued member of an innovative, internationally renowned not-for-profit organization. You not only will have access to a wide variety of resources, expertise and support but also will enjoy the camaraderie of people around the world who share your dedication and enthusiasm.

...and a serious commitment
Starting a Dress for Success affiliate may be rewarding, but it is also a demanding enterprise, one that will require significant amounts of your time, money and energy--all  all of the things it would take for you to launch your own for-profit business. While enthusiasm and excitement are certainly essential, you also must be ready for the more complicated and frustrating aspects of the start-up process--legal, financial and tax issues and, of course, fundraising. New affiliates need to find suitable space and equipment (preferably donated), obtain funding from diverse sources to cover operating costs, recruit board members and volunteers, build relationships with referral agencies, generate coverage in the press, establish accounting and inventory tracking systems, begin collecting clothing and much, much more.

Although you will encounter numerous obstacles and unexpected challenges, opening an affiliate is not impossible it has been done successfully in more than 135 locations around the world! As a member of Dress for Success Worldwide you will have the support of all of the Worldwide staff and will benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who have gone through the process before you.

Being a Dress for Success
While affiliates enjoy many advantages and rights, they also have a number of shared responsibilities. If you wish to open a Dress for Success in your community, it is essential that you understand what it means to be part of an international organization:
  • Dress for Success affiliates are separately incorporated non-profits that have their own boards of directors and raise their own funds. While some are sponsored by larger agencies, Dress for Success locations are independent from each other and from Worldwide.
  • All Dress for Success affiliates provide business attire and support services to disadvantaged women seeking employment by referral only from other not-for-profit agencies with job training programs.
  • All Dress for Success affiliates are members of Dress for Success Worldwide and therefore must attend the annual conference, pay a yearly licensing fee of $500 and both sign and abide by trademark and membership agreements and communications and policy guides.
  • All Dress for Success affiliates have the right to use the name "Dress for Success" as approved by Dress for Success Worldwide.
  • All Dress for Success affiliates have the right to participate in Dress for Success Worldwide programs, such as the Professional Women's Group and Y.E.S! (Young Executives for Success), and campaigns, such as S.O.S. - Send One Suit - Weekend.
Affiliate start-up application process

Once you have considered the demands and rewards of starting a Dress for Success affiliate, you must decide whether you wish to submit an application. The process is multi-leveled, consisting of several stages and lasting for at least five to six months.
  1. Before obtaining an application, click here see whether there is a Dress for Success affiliate within 100 miles of you or your proposed location. If there is, we recommend that you contact this affiliate directly to see about becoming a volunteer, helping to raise funds or assisting in some other way. It is only in extremely rare instances that we will authorize the opening of an affiliate that is less than 100 miles from an existing Dress for Success.
  2.   And we will not accept any applications for cities where we already have affiliates in operation.

    This policy has been put in place to ensure that all Dress for Success programs have the support and resources they need to succeed.

    Our Web site also includes a list of cities that we have targeted for expansion and where we have applications pending.  Please review this page to determine whether a proposal is already in progress for your area.  If this is the case, we do suggest reaching out to us so we can connect you with the candidate from your city--and so you can get involved in the start-up process. 

  3. Determine the population of the city where you hope to open an affiliate--or, if appropriate, the county, province or metropolitan area.  At the present time, we only consider applications that will be serving communities of at least 100,000 people. 

  4. If your location fits the above criteria, request the initial start-up application by sending an e-mail to startup@dressforsuccess.org. Dress for Success Worldwide uses this form to assess the need for program in your community, to learn about you and your reasons for submitting an application and to ensure that there are no existing affiliates close to the proposed site.

  5. You will receive the Phase I form in approximately 2 - 3 weeks. At that time you will be sent, via e-mail, the application packet and informed of the date when your submission will be due.

    Please note that we receive a large number of application requests each day and that it does take some time for us to process each one.  If you do not receive the Phase I packet within that time frame, we encourage you to follow up and ensure that we did get your initial e-mail. 

  6. Complete and return the application by the deadline given, typically slightly more than two weeks from the time you receive the packet. You've now completed Phase I.   Please note that forms submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

  7. Dress for Success will then review the information you have provided, using the following guidelines, to determine if you should move to Phase II.
    • If there is already a Dress for Success affiliate in or near your location (typically within 100 miles or less), we will refer you to that affiliate and will not send you a business plan application.
    • If a proposal for an affiliate in your area is pending, we will not move you to the next phase of the process.
    • Any existing affiliates in your state will be contacted about the proposed expansion. If they approve, you will move to the next phase of the process and receive a business plan application.
    • If there is no affiliate close to your site and it is within an area that we have targeted for growth, you will move to the next phase of the process and receive a business plan application.

  8. The Phase I review can take as long as 8 to 10 weeks. If Dress for Success Worldwide determines that you will be continuing on to Phase II, you will be asked to submit a business plan.

  9. Proposals are reviewed once each quarter, and you will have about three months to prepare your Phase II application. We will be in touch with you throughout the process to provide whatever assistance is possible.

  10. Towards the beginning of Phase II a candidate must submit an executive summary describing her/his vision for the affiliate, how s/he intends to prepare her/his business plan, who will be involved in the start-up process and why s/he decided to start a Dress for Success. Applicants will receive the executive summary information about two weeks after getting the Phase II packets.

  11. The executive summary is due one month before the business plan. If it is not submitted or the deadline is missed, the applicant will be removed from consideration and the area re-opened so that other candidates can apply.

  12. We will review the executive summary and provide feedback, as applicable, about your plans and vision for your affiliate.

  13. Once we receive your final business plan, we will review it internally to assess if it is ready to be considered by the leadership council. If we feel that the proposal needs to be strengthened or that the council will have questions, we will send it back to you for revisions.

  14. At some point before the leadership council reviews your application and after your business plan is submitted, a Worldwide staff member(s) or representative might conduct an interview with you. If you live in an area close to New York you may be asked to come to Dress for Success Worldwide for a face-to-face meeting.  In other cases the interview will take place via conference call or during a visit with a representative of the Worldwide office.

  15. After your proposal is thoroughly reviewed, Dress for Success Worldwide will inform you whether your application has been accepted or rejected.
Candidates who are approved then receive a welcome kit and become part of the Dress for Success family!

Frequently Asked Questions
Does Dress for Success provide start up funds?
Each affiliate is a separately incorporated non-profit organization or is part of another independent agency that serves as a sponsor. You are expected to raise all of the monies necessary for its launch and operations. As part of the Dress for Success family, however, you will benefit from the strength of our international reputation and brand, which will be extremely helpful in your fundraising and publicity efforts.

How will I be paid? And how much?
Dress for Success Worldwide does not provide any funds for the start-up process or pay any salaries. In most cases, founders and executive directors of Dress for Success affiliates receive no compensation during the first year. Whatever salaries will be paid must be included in your start-up budget. Bear in mind, however, that compensation should not be the largest item in your budget and that you will have to raise the funds to cover all expenses. Plan to work in a volunteer capacity at your start-up for at least the first year of operation.

Why do I have to complete the application form in two weeks?  What if I need more time?
The initial form is used to collect basic information about the proposed location and does not require much detail or to take a lot of time. We use the Phase I application to evaluate the need in your community and its proximity to any existing affiliates. You should not solicit any commitments from referral agencies or potential donors and staff in this phase of the process. All that is needed is basic research that can easily be undertaken in the time allowed.

Can I visit another Dress for Success location before I decide if I want to submit an application?
Applicants in Phase II are encourage to reach out to another Dress for Success either via e-mail, telephone or by actually visiting the site.  We do ask, however, that candidates wait until that stage of the process to connect with another program.

For an application, please e-mail us at startup@dressforsuccess.org.

© 2015 Dress for Success Worldwide :: 32 East 31st Street 7th Floor :: New York, NY 10016 Ph: 212.532.1922 | Fax: 212.684.9563